Bob Denny: Change the way you think

Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 11:01 a.m.

I recently visited our Veterans’ Hospital in Lake City, where a couple of years ago I helped as a volunteer. I think these folks provide needed quality care for veterans. Above nurses’ and doctors’ desks I noticed some inspirational messages. “I’m convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react to it. I’m in charge of my attitudes!”

To that I'd add “and 90 percent of what you choose to do with your life.”

Ive always appreciated and collected one-liner philosophies. “Work at what you love doing, and you’ll never work a day of your life.” “Enjoy life today. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may never come. All we have is today; make the most of it.”

What does this mean? Life doesn’t present us with problems, only situations. It’s the way we think that causes us to interpret life’s situations as “problems.” If we change the way we think, we can learn different ways to think about a situation. As we’re faced with life’s happenings, accidents, hurdles and obstacles, we can learn to see them as puzzles to be solved, situations to learn from, challenges that encourage us to develop new skills and strengths, and rich experiences from which we can gather new knowledge and wisdom.

It’s true, that so many things that happen to us in life poke us in the belly with losses, costly mistakes, and heartaches. As we live out our lives, we’ll surely experience pain, unfair treatment, punishments, and grief. Life isn’t all fun and games, but with a healthy attitude we can make the best of our lives. Even the hardest of times can be seen as offering chances to face life, and to develop character. It’s said “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

So, what can we do? Live life as it happens. Recognize life’s situations as they come up, and decide how you want to address them. Are they problems, or can I see them as challenges, opportunities, and as chances to learn and grow from?

Yes, there will be some difficult challenges and hard choices, but face them and learn and grow from them. Ask, “How can I best meet this challenge? What can I do to take this situation and use it to build a better life for myself, and to help others? Ever see those “human interest” news fillers about cancer survivors or rape victims who use their experiences to prepare others for their own difficult situations, and help them overcome their own challenges? “Play it forward.” By helping others, we also help ourselves. We’re all in this thing called “life” together.

Bob Denny has counseled troubled youth and families in north Florida during the last 15 years, and currently teaches psychology at Florida Gateway College. Your comments are appreciated and will receive a response from

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top